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Arizona prepares order for swine flu vaccine

A first batch of roughly 60,000 doses of the new swine flu vaccine could arrive in Arizona next week, state health officials said Sept. 29.

Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble said his office is collecting orders from county health departments for submission to the federal Centers for Disease Control on Wednesday. Arizona likely will get the first doses of a nasal spray vaccine from vendors sometime next week, he said.

The CDC is coordinating the allocation of about 3 million initial doses to states, which will be distributed according to population. Arizona has about 2 percent of the nation’s population, meaning the state will get roughly 60,000 doses initially.

Humble’s office says the spray is only approved for healthy people between 2- and 49-years-old. The doses will likely be given to health care workers or people who care for or live with infants under 6 months old.

Health departments in each of Arizona’s counties will decide how to allocate its vaccine.

Maricopa County, the state’s most populous at about 4 million residents, expects to receive about 40,000 doses, county health department spokeswoman Jeanene Fowler said.

None of the county’s doses are targeted for the public. Instead, Fowler said, they will be distributed to health care workers and emergency medical providers. With such a limited supply, county officials decided it was most critical to protect workers who care for others.

In much smaller Coconino County, Health Department Director Barbara Worgess said the 1,200 flu spray doses expected next week will go to pediatric physicians for their patients or workers and to hospitals for their workers.

“We can manage the vaccine that we’re getting in a far different way than (Maricopa County) can,” Worgess said. “But we won’t ever be getting as much as the providers want.”

For instance, Worgess said her office can phone each health provider in the county of about 120,000 residents and ask them how much vaccine they want, something impossible in Maricopa County.

The state had 1,684 confirmed cases of swine flu as of Sept. 23, but officials say many cases go unreported. As of Tuesday, Humble said 28 deaths had been reported across the state.

The nasal spray contains a live virus, so it can’t be given to at-risk groups.

“Normally, you’d want to go after the special needs kids, but this live vaccine isn’t appropriate for them,” Humble said. “People with special and chronic conditions need to get the injectable vaccine, which will be here shortly.”

Next week’s initial shipments will serve as a kind of trial for the ordering and distribution system, health officials said. Then, the big shipments will begin.

“It will be a couple of weeks before we get the mother lode,” Humble said, between 800,000 and 1 million doses by the end of October. Schools will then be able to start their vaccination programs.

By the height of the flu season in January, Humble says the state hopes to have vaccinated from 60 percent to 70 percent of the population – as many as 4 million people.

Arizona has received roughly $30 million in federal funds to plan for and implement its flu mass vaccination programs. All but about 10 percent will be passed on to the state’s 15 counties, Humble said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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